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Tuesday, Apr. 21, 2015

Falling rock not part of historic bridge

Saturday, February 2, 2013

(Photo)
Rocks from the hillside next to Big Four Railroad Bridge recently fell onto County Road 500 West, leading some to speculate concrete was crumbling from the century-old bridge. [Order this photo]
Much like the lesson Chicken Little taught us about the sky, the Big Four Railroad Bridge was not falling this week.

However, it may have looked that way at first.

On Monday evening, crews from the Putnam County Sheriff's Department and CSX Railroad responded to a report of chunks of either rock or concrete in the middle of County Road 500 West, which runs beneath one of the Madison Township bridge's three large arches.

A rumor had circulated in the community this week that they were pieces of concrete from the bridge, but officials from the sheriff's department and county highway have confirmed the fragments were rocks from the hillside beneath the bridge.

Col. Tom Helmer of the sheriff's department told the Banner Graphic there were at least four rocks, approximately 50-75 pounds in weight, in the roadway at the time of the call.

While this could be a safety issue for a passing vehicle, especially if more rocks fall in the future, it is not of the scale of the bridge crumbling.

Likewise, County Highway co-supervisor Jim Smith said the concrete bridge showed no signs of fresh breaks.

Some debate remains over a large metal bar found on the hillside with the rocks. One train of thought is that someone intentionally removed the rocks from the hillside.

Helmer said he believes the bar was actually wedged into the hillside to help hold the stones in place.

A January filled with strange weather may be to blame. Runoff from high amounts of rain, along with freezing and thawing could wreak havoc on a rock-covered hillside.

Either way, a CSX crew responded with a backhoe to repair the damage.

It is unknown if the bridge or surrounding landscape will require any further work. A Thursday call to CSX community affairs and safety has not been returned.

The structure is often referred to as the Big Four Arch Bridge, leading to the incorrect assumption it contains four arches.

With only three arches, the bridge actually derives its name from the Cleveland, Cincinnati, Chicago and St. Louis Railroad (known as the Big Four Railroad), which it originally carried over Little Walnut Creek and County Road 500 West.

The open-spandrel arch bridge was built in the early 1900s as part of Big Four's double-tracking of its railroad.

CSX now owns the railroad and bridge.



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